Saturday, February 16, 2008

ant head sutures

Saw Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto recently. When one of the forest Indians uses ants to suture closed a wound it looked like an illustration of something I’d read recently. Robert M. Sapolsky in his A Primate’s Memoir writes about his time in Africa studying baboons. His nearest human neighbors were Masai.

In a passage about army ants Sapolsky says, “Once they dig in your skin with their pincers, they hold on so tightly that when you pull at them to get them off, the head detaches from the body, leaving the pincers still in you. The Masai use them to suture people – bad cut, and someone grabs an army ant, holds the two sides of the cut together, lets the pissed-off ant sink its pincers in, and, quickly, twists off the body, leaving rows of ant head sutures in place.”

I don’t remember having heard about the same practice in MesoAmerica (where Apocalypto takes place), yet a quick web search brought me this reference concerning the Leaf Cutter Ant at, “Indians used the jaws of the soldier ant as sutures to hold together the edges of wounds.” So there you go.

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